We last heard music from Joel. (aka MaG) on his 2013 release (via RCRDLBL) Freedom, a soulful slice of American hip-hop. He didn’t go silent between then and now – those who follow him on Twitter know that Joel is a poet and a non-stop thinker, with an eye toward social progress and absolutely no patience for bullshit.
It’s no surprise to find that same spirit in the music he’s been working on. songs for charles is an independent release dropped via Bandcamp just last month, and it kicks off with a short audio clip from Jay Z in the studio, taken from the film Fade To Black. This track, titled “what Hov said…(intro),” captures Jay discussing young rappers coming up, who think they have to write about things they don’t feel and don’t know. He tells the cameraman to put the lens on him before saying, “See what y’all did to rappers? They scared to be theyself.”
Being true to himself, then, serves as Joel.’s mission here. “I can’t speak for no one else / but I’m gonna keep on being myself,” goes one of the refrains on the first song, “creston and 188th.” What follows is a personal catharsis. The next eight songs are all at least rooted in the past, even while facing the present. He looks back on his upbringing, his family, lessons learned and carried forward. “We was young / we was reckless,” he says, in the frank and unsentimental “hash browns.” The chilled out, hypnotic loop of the song keeps the mood static and, as much as the lyric, creates a vivid atmosphere, if not an especially warm one. It actually feels like a carefully constructed sound collage, pieced together from ‘70s-‘80s AM radio dials, video games, cassettes rewinding…the sounds of a childhood, running in the background.
“new, new york” brings us into the present, or at least the very recent past. But each track here, just like real life, builds on what came before. That’s why, even though this is an eight-song collection (nine tracks), I take songs for charles as an “album.” It’s not a mixtape, it’s not a collection of singles. It’s a thematic, narrative flow. And like a lot of Joel.’s work, it’s densely filled with imagery and wordplay, and almost has the feel of a play. With only a few listens so far, I have not absorbed every nuance, but I look forward to trying.
“better late than never (intermission)” is a dreamy flight, with a backing that sounds like recent Radiohead; droning chords bracing syncopated, jazz drums. The lyric is equal parts past, present, and future, and how they are helplessly intertwined, with a hook that declares, “I’d rather die than let go of one of my dreams / one foot forward, all I gotta do is proceed…It’s never too late to dream.” Hope continues to be a central theme here – aspirations for a better life, one that’s more fulfilling, one that is free from the troubled past, and one where glory is attained on no one else’s terms but your own.
Certainly Joel. knows there’s no complete escape from what came before. But songs for charles is at least an attempt at exorcism. Facing pain in stark terms, he describes a present in which personal reconciliation is already under way, and this music – in all its expressive, subtle complexity – is the conduit.
On Bandcamp now —> songs for charles by Joel.
The new album from Kat Robichaud and The Darling Misfits is out today, January 27th. An impressive, ambitious, and confident collection of dramatic rock and pop songs, the eponymous record was funded by fans earned by Robichaud throughout her time as front-woman of The Design and, most famously, during her thrilling run as a contender on The Voice.
There are no shortage of artists today aiming for the grand and theatrical, inspired by Lady Gaga, Dresden Dolls and the like – and surely these are influences on Kat Robichaud as well. But what makes this a special record, and Robichaud a special artist, is her natural edge. We would not hesitate to classify this as a rock and roll record, despite its polished pop production, purely for the non-stop intensity and the sheer force of the singer’s will. More Queen and Foxy Shazam than Gaga, really.
On top of this, the LP is beautifully bizarre. It is funny, clever, defiant, and plainly well-written. Sound collages recur throughout, sometimes to create or enhance a vibe, and occasionally just for a laugh. Yet this is no novelty. Veering between wrenching balladry and dynamic, piano-pounding epics, this is the sound of an artist going for broke, being completely true to herself and discovering her own essence, having tested her limits and finding only those that are self-imposed.
While you were mentally blowing off work in anticipation of your vacation, Yahoo Music was premiering the new official lyric video for Kat Robichaud and the Darling Misfits‘ “Somebody Call The Doctor.” The propulsive lead track from her upcoming album (January 27th) hit the web on December 23rd. Sure, it’s not all mistletoe and eggnog, but with all that out of the way, it’s time to focus on how spectacular this song sounds, and how entertaining the Doctor Who-themed video is. We’ll have more about the full-length soon, but until then, please enjoy:
It does not seem like that long ago that we were ears deep in Ripely Pine, the debut full-length from friend of OurStage Lady Lamb the Beekeeper. The artist otherwise known as Aly Spaltro joined up with us early on and was soon a favorite around the office, before being selected as the MTV Needle in the Haystack artist back in 2011. Ripely Pine was an impressive debut that firmly established the singer’s gravitas and seemingly endless potential as a songwriter. Today, Spaltro debuted “Billions of Eyes,” the first single from her new record, After, which is due in March 2014. Check out the official lyric video, made up of stills, home movies, and fan-submitted art. See below for the album artwork. (And be sure to check out our exclusive session with Lady Lamb the Beekeeper from a few years ago.)
UPDATE 2: McLagan’s official site has posted a statement: “It is with great sadness and eternal admiration that we report the passing of rock and roll icon Ian McLagan. Ian was a member of the ‘Small Faces’ and ‘Faces’ and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. He died today, December 3, 2014, surrounded by family and friends in his adopted hometown of Austin, TX, due to complications from a stroke suffered the previous day. He was 69 years old. His manager Ken Hushnick says, ‘He was a beloved friend to so many people and a true rock n roll spirit. His persona and gift of song impacted the music across oceans and generations.’ Ian’s bandmate in Small Faces and Faces, Kenney Jones said, ‘I am completely devastated by this shocking news and I know this goes for Ronnie and Rod also.’ Ian’s artistry, generosity and warmth of spirit touched countless other musicians and music fans around the world. His loss will be felt by so many. Ian was scheduled to begin a North American tour today, opening for labelmate Nick Lowe.”
Details are scarce at the moment, but Ian McLagan, the great keyboardist for The Faces and Small Faces, frequent sideman with The Rolling Stones, and solo artist, has been hospitalized in his hometown of Austin TX with a reported head injury. He is said to be in critical condition.
McLagan currently leads the Bump Band, and has just come off the road. His website confirms the news of his hospitalization, saying he was admitted last night and asking fans to keep him in their thoughts and prayers. Ours are certainly with him.
Having recently been sidelined for Rolling Stones dates for medical reasons, Bobby Keys, longtime saxophone player with the Rolling Stones, has died. His death has been confirmed by Michael Webb, keyboardist for Bobby Keys and the Suffering Bastards (via Nashville Scene).
Keys is nothing short of a legend when it comes to rock and roll sidemen. He was a close friend of all the Stones, and especially Keith Richards. In addition to being a member of the touring band for decades, Bobby Keys played on most of their classic records, and his horn is an integral part of some of the Stones’ biggest hits.
RIP Bobby Keys.
One of the tough parts of having the blog under maintenance for a while was seeing a bunch of OurStage artists doing dope shit and releasing awesome music and not being able to share it here. While we missed the release of the official video for “Bipolar” from Jitta on the Track a couple of weeks ago, at least we’re back ahead of the album’s release date. Jitta, who not that long ago won our competition to open for Drake on the Club Paradise tour, will drop Bipolar on November 5th, and we’ll have artwork and the track list from him in the days ahead. Without further ado, check the video below.
Jitta On The Track don’t rest.
The CT rapper who won our challenge to earn himself an opening slot on Drake‘s Club Paradise Tour is just constantly creating. In recent days alone, we’ve got three new Jitta-related tracks to enjoy. In addition to guesting on Chris Webby‘s fantastic “Good Day” (from his upcoming mixtape The Checkup), Jitta just dropped two of his own, “Jesse Pinkman” and “UnAmerican” (with $-DUB) Check out all three below.
Few artists could call their song “Heart And Soul” and still have a hit on their hands. No, it’s not the dueling piano piece for beginners, nor the Huey Lewis deep cut, but rather an undeniably anthemic rocker from friends of OurStage Twin Atlantic. The Glasgow quartet’s recently released single is already at #10 on the UK charts. Get it here, and watch the band perform the song on Radio 1’s Big Weekend below.
One of our favorite OS discoveries from the last couple of years is Brittany Campbell. The Brooklyn-based multi-talented singer, songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist first caught our ears with her retro-flavored “Goody Goody.” Today, she’s dropped a new 10-track LP, titled Heroes. Yes, the original artwork suggests a sandwich theme, but as expected, Campbell’s lyrics are closer to Bowie’s take on the term than, say, Weird Al’s. Musically, the production is more modern pop and R&B, showcasing her considerable voice, and featuring some well-placed guest contributions. Enjoy it now via her Soundcloud: